CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — NASCAR on Tuesday ordered Denny Hamlin to begin sensitivity training this week after he posted an anti-Asian meme from the television comedy “Family Guy” to criticize Kyle Larson's driving on the last lap at Talladega Superspeedway over the weekend.
Hamlin deleted the tweet Monday night and apologized.
“I took down a post I made earlier today after reading some of the comments,” he wrote. “It was a poor choice of memes and I saw how it was offensive. It came across totally wrong.”
Hamlin is a three-time Daytona 500 winner who drives a Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. He also owns 23XI Racing with Michael Jordan and fields two cars supported by the Japanese automaker — one driven by Bubba Wallace, the only Black driver at NASCAR's top level.
Hamlin is also good friends with Larson, the reigning Cup Series champion who was suspended by NASCAR almost all of the 2020 season for using a racial slur during an online race. He is half-Japanese.
On Sunday at Talladega, Larson was in second exiting the final turn when he made his move for the win. He moved up the track multiple lanes in an aggressive move that caused 23XI driver Kurt Busch to crash — a wreck that also collected Wallace.
In the meme, an Asian woman speaks in choppy English before moving across six lanes of traffic with no warning, reflecting a racist steretype about Asian drivers. It has long been removed from the episode on all streaming platforms but the clip can still be found on YouTube. Larson's name was superimposed over the female driver in the meme.
Hamlin’s tweet was up nearly seven hours before he deleted it right before midnight.
Toyota said in a statement it supported NASCAR's punishment of Hamlin.
“We have spoken with Denny Hamlin regarding his tweet from yesterday. Toyota supports NASCAR’s decision to mandate sensitivity training for Denny and we will all move forward together," the automaker said.
NASCAR's rulebook has a section that says its members "shall not make or cause to be made a public statement and/or communication that criticizes, ridicules, or otherwise disparages another person based upon that person’s race, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, age, or handicapping condition.”
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